UMass football struggles in second half, falls 24-13 to Coastal Carolina

Minutemen score just 13 points on five red-zone trips

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UMass football struggles in second half, falls 24-13 to Coastal Carolina

Photo by Caroline O'Connor

Photo by Caroline O'Connor

Photo by Caroline O'Connor

Photo by Caroline O'Connor

By Thomas Haines, Assistant Sports Editor

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After allowing just three points in the first half, the defense for the Massachusetts football team finally broke down in the third quarter as UMass fell 24-13 to Coastal Carolina on Saturday afternoon.

Although the game appeared to be a defensive slugfest heading into halftime—the first half saw ­­­­seven offensive plays of 20 or more yards for UMass (2-5) and four such plays for the Chanticleers—but neither side was able to gain an edge. Turnovers for both sides near the end of the half cost both teams.

Coastal finally started to capitalize after halftime, as the Chanticleers scored 14 points in the third quarter to take a 17-13 lead heading into the fourth. Coastal held the Minutemen scoreless in the fourth quarter to close out the game.

Despite allowing 21 points in the second half, it was still one of the best games of the season for the UMass defense and the first time the Minutemen have allowed fewer than 30 points since the season-opener against Duquesne.

“We see how well our offense has been performing,” cornerback Brice McAllister said. “When they put up 35 or 40 points, we can’t let them get more than that. So that was a big thing for this week, keeping the points low. We accomplished that, to an extent, today.”

The Chanticleers rotated between three quarterbacks throughout the game, and it was third-stringer Fred Payton who threw Coastal’s two touchdowns, starting with a 61-yarder to a wide-open Malcolm Williams in the third quarter to regain the lead. In the fourth, leading 17-13, Payton threw a jump ball to C.J. Marable, who caught it over McAllister to extend the lead and effectively bury the Minutemen.

“The big key was, they threw the wheel route and we blew the coverage,” Whipple said of the 61-yard touchdown. “Then they threw the other wheel route and made a good play over Brice. When they had the opportunities, they made them for touchdowns, and we didn’t. That was the big difference.”

UMass struggled to convert scoring opportunities, reaching the red zone five times and coming away with just 13 points. Andy Isabella, who accounted for 128 receiving yards in the first half and 174 yards on the day, took a hard hit inside the CCU 10-yard line in the second quarter and fumbled, the ball bouncing right into the arms of Chanticleer Derick Bush.

“We just didn’t finish a lot of drives,” Palmer said. “We just need to finish those drives. It was nothing that they did, it was just off of penalties, or maybe a dropped pass. Everything was on us, mostly.”

The UMass running game struggled early in the absence of Marquis Young, who left with an injury after taking a hard hit against South Florida two weeks ago. Led by redshirt junior Jordan Fredericks and junior Bilal Ally, the UMass rushing attack recorded just four net yards on 10 carries in the first half.

The Minutemen relied on the left arm of Ford, who threw for 208 yards in the first half and 326 yards overall.  The total could have been higher, as two perfectly placed deep balls in the second quarter were dropped by UMass wide receivers.

Midway through the fourth, with UMass trailing by 11, Ford took a fourth-down sack on an unblocked blitz by Coastal safety Jave Brown and stayed down for about a minute. He was helped off the field, not putting weight on his right leg, and did not return. Redshirt senior quarterback Ross Comis finished the game for the Minutemen.

On a fourth-and-17 with just under a minute remaining, Bilal Ally took a checkdown from Comis and was tackled short, and the Chanticleers were able to close out the game.

With the loss, UMass has lost three straight games. The Minutemen will get a chance to change their fortunes next week when they go on the road to face Connecticut.

Thomas Haines can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @thainessports.